HTC BlinkFeed. From vocal revulsion to grudging acceptance to quiet praise, the community’s feelings about HTC’s custom news and social stream have come quite a ways in the year since it was introduced. Now, after a full point upgrade and many enhancements, BlinkFeed on Sense 6 stands ready to help you waste some time – and we’re here to show you how to help it help you.
If you’re new to an HTC smartphone and apathetic to the tech scene, your first question will probably be: what is BlinkFeed? The easiest answer is that it’s analogous the Facebook News Feed or the familiar Twitter stream, except instead of just displaying posts from those services it also includes those from other places on the web: Instagram; LinkedIn; Google+; national and niche news. Locally-stored nuggets of interest like calendar appointments and photos are here, too. It’s a bit like the old Today Screen on a Windows Mobile smartphone, blown up into Windows Phone-sized tiles. Put more succinctly, it’s a lot like Flipboard. And it changes constantly as the feeds turn over.
A great deal of your BlinkFeed experience starts with the initial setup: do it right and you’ll have a handy companion on your leftmost home screen. Blow it off and you’ll dump BlinkFeed at the first opportunity. The more BlinkFeed knows about you the better it’s going to be at delivering updates you care about. So log in to as many plugins as you can (or, if such things creep you out, as many as you feel comfortable with). If you have a Fitbit, you can plug into that account. If you want local restaurant recommendations, that’s covered too.
Then select your news sources, keeping in mind that this isn’t just a dry matter of deciding whether you want Reuters or AP, Pocketnow or Pocket-Lint. You can search for a specific topic, like the name of a TV show, your favorite band, or a currently trending news item. Plug it in and info about that topic will filter into the feed. And if you just want a straight up deluge of that topic, slide into the preferences panel and select it. Suddenly the whole lineup is news about Mr. Belvedere, or Who’s the Boss, or whatever you kids are watching these days.
Can’t find the stuff you’re looking for? You might be searching in the wrong region. Click the drop down at the top of the screen to change your country.
Speaking of the preferences pane, there’s important stuff in Settings. Like whether you want BlinkFeed to update on its own, and whether you’d prefer that happen over cellular or WiFi. (It’ll update once an hour over WiFi and once every two hours on cellular) And subway riders: you’ll be happy to know that BlinkFeed can prefetch stories for later reading, handy when you’re stuck underground for long stretches of no service.
That’s about all there is to the initial setup. Ideally, as you use BlinkFeed you’ll notice its stories gradually becoming more relevant as it uses Facebook Likes to get to know you. (Sorry, non-Facebookers.) And while some services require that you read their content in a separate app, many let you gorge on content right inside BlinkFeed, meaning a single column with uniform text size and no ads – otherwise known as “the ideal mobile experience.”
And when you want to see the new stuff … Tap the top of the screen and you’ll be catapulted to the top. (iPhone owners are used to this, but it took me a very long time to figure out that HTC had “appropriated” it for the original One, so … you’re welcome.) Once you get there, you’ll see one of two things: if you’ve set BlinkFeed as your home screen, the clock and weather widget will always be up there to greet you. If not, it won’t. Pull down to refresh.
And what if you hate that accent color? As we mentioned in our review, seafoam green isn’t for everyone – and neither, for that matter, is eggplant purple or international orange. That’s a global theme color controlled by the system settings (Settings > Personalize > Theme). You can even get back the stark black and white look of the old BlinkFeed if you want, but bear in mind that your entire phone’s color scheme will change, not just the accents within BlinkFeed.
Sadly, there’s no way to recover the handy page-by-page scrolling from Sense 5 at this point. Can’t win ’em all, I suppose.
Follow the steps above, and inside of a few minutes you’ll have a stocked-up, finely-tuned feed for all your social and news needs, always just a swipe away. Just don’t dally if you’re the boasting type and want to gloat to your friends about this exclusive convenience: rumor has it BlinkFeed will be coming to a non-HTC Android phone near you before too long.
Are you a BlinkFeed veteran with wisdom to share? Drop it in the comments below, then check out our full review of the new HTC One M8 for our in-depth exploration of the newest Android superphone!